September 2016

Body changes

Last year, for reasons not related to an eating disorder (I feel compelled to add that, because if you know me, and you know my history, you’re going to jump to a conclusion), I lost weight.

The reasons were complicated. They involved dealing with a lot of grief, processing a lot of stuffed-down traumatic memories, and some health issues, that may or may not have been caused by the aformentioned factors, but were definitely made worse by those factors.

So, due to a major lack of energy, and some hardcore anxiety and depression, I did a lot of napping, resting, sitting. Quiet, low-key things. Which at the time, my body absolutely needed. But that meant that I didn’t really go to the gym for about 8 months.

And now: now, my body is starting to heal. Now, I’m starting to gain weight. But more than that, my body has adjusted to close to a year of no gym, which means it’s changed.

I’m less toned. I’m bigger in some places. I’m softer in some places. Saggier in places. Some places touch that I’m not used to touching. Some pants that fell off of me a year ago now fit perfectly. And my thighs won’t squeeze into some pants that were baggy last year.

It’s an adjustment.

It’s not bad. It’s not good. Or, it’s bad AND good. Whatever. The point is, it’s not all one thing. And it just IS.

It’s an adjustment.

Maybe to another person I look the same. That’s fine. It’s not about other people’s thoughts or opinions. And it’s actually not about how I look. I’m not saying I’m fat (I’m not) or chunky (I’m not) or ugly (I’m not). It’s about how my body feels.

I’ve had moments of brief panic: How am I going to adjust to this????? But I’ve also had moments of awe: Hell yeah. My body did what it needed to do, my body carried me through last year, and it survived and it’s rebuilding itself. And I’ve also had moments where I’m just so impressed because a decade ago, the slightest softening or growth of my body would’ve sent me restricting and purging and counting nonstop. Now? I feel it, oh yes, I notice it and feel it. But then I move on. I’ll adjust. My body is resilient. It’s all okay.

This is new for me.

I’m back to going to the gym. I’m back to lifting, to moving my body. But my body isn’t going to be the exact one it was last year (nor would I want it to be). It’s not going to be the one it was five years ago. And it’s not going to be the one that it will be a year from now.  And that’s just the truth and the reality of it.

Acceptance. Noticing. Observing. Breathing. Moving through. Moving on.

Collecting bravery

Just about 3 months ago, I wrote “It’s Time” – what I (still) refer to as  “the bravest thing I will ever write.” Since then, I haven’t had the urge to write as much, nor have I felt like I’ve had anything worth saying. I almost felt like I had worked for years to get to that point – and after you reach the top of a mountain, it’s not like you can keep climbing. So I slid down, and barely wrote for the past few months. Still trying to figure out where to go from here – what to say, what’s my angle, what’s my goal, with writing.

Something I’ve been thinking about a LOT lately are the brave women whose stories gave me courage and fire and strength to ultimately write that post. It’s like this: one person writes or says something brave. That gives the second person courage, and so then they write something brave. And then multiple people read it and they get strong and they write it, too. And that’s how it was for me.

Over the years I have read countless blog posts and articles. There are women who write that I feel like I know, because they have shared their deepest stories (the once were secrets) with me and with the world. These are the women who helped me get here. And so I wanted to share some of their words with you, in the hope that their words will keep building that fire within you.

I have followed Jess on Diary of a Mom for years. I feel like I know her and her kids, and I love every single story and anecdote she writes. She has made me a better speech language pathologist and have more knowledge into my kids with autism, leading me to be a fierce autism advocate in many ways. A few years ago, Jess posted this, and my heart stopped. Her, too. It’s her story, too. And I felt less alone. She wrote, “It’s time because the shame should not be mine. It should never have been mine.” Yes. I started to believe it. That maybe, just maybe, someday I would not own the shame.

I don’t remember how I started following Erin Brown’s blog. (Which you should check out, and you should also add her on Snapchat. Trust me.) But one day, the same thing, I saw that she had written it. Her story. When she said, “It’s a lifetime of joys, pains, light and dark, and you carry it all until you are ready to set it down. Dare I say, it’s hard to move forward until you begin that unpacking,” the fire inside of me grew.

When I discovered Elephant Journal, one of my most favorite writers instantly became Cis White. In what is one of the bravest posts I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot, she wrote: “It didn’t define me. It is a part of me, but not all of me. It became something a size of which I can manage. Since it is not my fault, why should I hide the truth of my experience?…….I believe the power of shame is diminished when we speak up and out and with one another about it.” The bravery in her words was admirable – and something I decided I was going to strive for.

And then there’s Laura. I have been reading Laura’s blog for years. I don’t remember how I ever stumbled upon it, but when I did, I felt like I was home. Every word she writes feels like a hug. A warm blanket wrapped around me. As if she is looking me straight in the eye and saying, “I get it. I get you.” And one day this past spring, out of nowhere, I messaged her on Facebook, and she wrote back telling me that she and her cousin Mary, of Say it Survivor, (check out their story-seriously) were having a writing workshop just 40 minutes from where I lived, and that I should come. And while even just a year ago, I would’ve laughed and said, “Absolutely not,” I signed up that night, texted a friend, and she and I went. Our experience at the workshop could be an entire post. And maybe some day it will be. But let’s just say: that was it. It was the final piece that had been missing. I walked out of there without shame, without blame, without fear. And one week later, I published “It’s Time.” (And following that post, guess what I have not felt at all? Regret, more shame, fear, self-hatred. Actually, I have felt more free than I have ever felt.) Laura and I have kept in touch since the workshop and she is just one of those genuinely amazingly beautiful souls. If you ever have the privilege of working with her – do it. I would copy and paste every post she’s ever written, but in the interest of time, just trust me: read her blog. And here are the words that I tell her are my most favorite thing she’s ever said, and never fail to make me tear up upon reading:

No one gets to judge how you managed to survive, friends.  No one.  No one gets to shame you for whatever you did to get yourself to the place where you can live through feeling the pain.  Not even you.

You survived, honey.  Not everyone does, you know.

You miraculous girl.  You miraculous boy.  You clever, resilient child, you.

You can stop hurting yourself.  You can shed your armor, and still be safe.  You can be seen, and still be safe.  You are so much stronger than you give yourself credit for.  You are being held hostage.  Meet the demands.  Feel the pain.  It will take some courage, but we already know how brave you are.  You are so, so brave.

You are strong enough to walk through the pain, and into the sunlight- I promise you. Freedom is just around the bend.  See you there, sweet friend.

And this doesn’t even begin to talk about Glennon and Liz and Brené and so many women in my day-to-day life who inspire me with their bravery to stand tall and be real and tell their stories.

So I hope you gain some inspiration. I hope their words fill you with bravery and comfort. And I hope you find the courage to tell your own story – even a snippet, or a sentence, or a word. Whatever your story is about. It will set you free – this I know.

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